To Will Ferrell and Mike Rosolio: It Is Not Funny to Make Fun of People With Alzheimer's
Dear Will Ferrell and Mike Rosolio,
I was in shock when I heard that Mr. Rosolio wrote this script and somehow thought that making fun of Ronald Reagan’s dementia was at all okay. I was saddened to hear Mr. Ferrell supports this and will produce and star in the film, “Reagan.” (“Set at the start of the ex-president’s second term when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, “Reagan” follows the commander-in-chief as he succumbs to dementia and is convinced by an ambitious intern that he’s actually an actor playing the president in a movie.”) It was also incredulous to me that this script was voted to the 2015 Black List of Hollywood’s best unproduced screenplays. This means dozens or even hundreds of people read this script and no one said that making fun of Alzheimer’s/dementia was crass and inappropriate.
Comedy has it’s place in talking about illness. Comedy is a way to release angst and make life a bit less dreary. We laughed all the time about events that happened while caring for my mother who lived with dementia for ten years. Sometimes if you do not laugh, you will cry and you need a good laugh just as much as you need a good cry. We laughed about the time we accidentally dumped my Mom out of her wheelchair (she was fine and even she laughed at it.) We laughed about meals that tasted horrible because ingredients were forgotten. We even laughed about changing adult diapers because some of us just could not figure out how all the tabs on those things worked. We found joy in the midst of the illness. However, we never made fun of the illness or my Mom or anyone else with the illness. We never would have made fun of my Mom for forgetting ingredients in a recipe. We would laugh that it happened and talk about times when each of us has made a cooking disaster.
I ask you both, and everyone who is involved in the tragedy of making this movie, to stop and think about a loved one of yours who is or was ill- with any illness. Would you want to watch a movie that made fun of your loved one and the illness they have?
Can you imagine what it would be like for Reagan’s kids and grandkids to watch a movie mocking him? I can imagine what it would be like for me to see my mother’s illness made fun of. I would be devastated. I know watching “Reagan” would remind me of my mother and I would be basically watching people publicly mock her. I would be scared watching this movie. I know that making light of this illness means stigma will increase and we will continue to ostracize people with dementia- cutting them out of families and communities because people perceive them as stupid and not worth having around.
I know it can be hard to think of the ramifications of mocking a person and an illness when you do not have a personal connection to living with this illness every day. If you have not been a care partner for someone with Alzheimer’s, it may be hard for you to really understand why this movie would be so devastating to those living with Alzheimer’s now, their care partners, and the ability for our country to take this illness seriously enough to get the funding needed for research and a cure.
I do not believe anyone does things like this on purpose to hurt others. I think more often people just do not know the issue or illness well enough and they do not think through the larger impact of such an action.
Now that you have heard so many of us, families of loved ones with dementia, plead for you to not make this movie, could you reconsider it? Could you put compassion and empathy first? Could you see the photo of my mother above and make a decision not to make fun of the beautiful life she had as she lived with dementia?